Part 70: Wednesday 28th December 1960, 4.5pm

Another Kratzmass over, as my Mum says. Richard and his fiancée, Esther, came round on Monday, with Esther’s little girl, Daphne. Esther is a gay divorcée. She has been a number of years in Israel. They came loaded with gifts, balloons, and brought some sparkle into the place. Boobbe Esther has been staying over the holiday. Mum stayed at Sam’s, came over by car midday yesterday – she couldn’t wait any longer to see the kids. Also round yesterday: Leo, Clara and young Michael, aetat circa 10. Michael was very helpful with Philip. He, Michael, is a good-looking, exceptionally well-spoken boy; hated by his brother Howardaetat circa 15, who is a very gifted pianist.

All this entertaining caused rumpuses between E. & myself. My fault, I suppose; or perhaps, as is so often the case, no-one’s fault, simply la force des choses, or both of us equally to blame. I received an unexpected commission to translate an article on goitre in the Galilee from D.F. Lang (Translations) Ltd. (Goitre in Galilee – title for article – but will I get round to writing it – will I hell!) I tackled it straightaway – difficult to explain to E. that one must do these things immediately – with the result that E. was utterly overworked and overwrought. Philip is up, has been grizzling all morning, but has slept two good hours in the afternoon. I resume at about 8.30pm. Both kids in bed, peace. Alf in bed with sprained ankle; Minnie Secker, Mum informs me, in bed with a bunion, abee gezinnt. There’s lots I wanted to do in this holiday, I had asked E. to clear the study (by night M’s bedroom) for me from 8-10pm, but I don’t know whether I’ll use it – it might be best to try to, otherwise E. will think that “having a lot to do” is just my story.

Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 30: A tee-hee-hee and a fold-de-lol

This entry includes a correction footnote as made by my father, including the East Asian asterisk he used! The date of the correction shows he would re-read his entries from time to time.

Tuesday, 9th December, 1958; 9.30 p.m.

Have been reading previous entries in order to avoid repetition as far as possible. Somewhat depressed to-day, but mood clearing up, I think (at this particular instant – and I mean instant – there is silence in the front-room – except for the subdued roar of traffic, which doesn’t worry me – and the writing of this diary, once I do succeed in getting down to it, has a therapeutic effect). I must try to avoid these incapsulations, cultivate a style. (at 47, nearly! I can’t decapsulate myself. Yes, writing this diary is “therapy” as Dollinger said of his driving lessons. Dollinger the Reader at the NLJC [New Liberal Jewish Congregation] – gives me a lift home in his car most Sundays.

Talking of NLJC, one of my kids there asked if I would write an account of a story, saying, connected with the rabbis – I had asked them to do this for their test. Fair enough, really. I’ve always felt that the best way of showing kids how to do a composition on, say, “A Day at the Seaside” is to do one yourself.

Anyway, on Sunday morning I did tell the kids in my class to read quietly – which they did, reasonably so – while I did the test myself. Afterwards I gave my top-mark boys (17,16) my script to mark. We agreed on 18. As one of the markers said, I had failed to discuss the story or saying;  but, I pointed out, I had recounted the story accurately and my style was good.

Edith reclining in arm-chair, legs on another chair, consulting her cookery book; a picture, as I have had occasion to observe before, of domestic bliss. Dare I complain?

Possibly responsible for the mood of depression to which I have referred is the fact that I didn’t hear from Thames & Hudson. They wrote wanting to know if I would discuss translating a popular Hebrew work of archaeology with them. Michael Edwardes, quondam of Vallentine Mitchell had suggested me to them. When I had last seen M.E. the atmosphere had been rather tense. He had said the English of an “English” TS he had given me to “english” was not English. He was right, too. So I was agreeably surprised to find that he will still, apparently, speak favourably for me.

But more probably, the depression is inherent in the general situation and, in mild form, will be with me most days I am teaching. I can see no issue from the impasse: I am inefficient as a Primary School Teacher, and have missed the selective Secondary School bus. I put in for a Deputy Headship, with a feeling of resentment at the futility of doing so.

Howard Youngerwood‘s bar-mitsva the other day. Very enjoyable. To Golders Green shool, by public transport, on the Shabbes. Called up. Myer resplendent in topper in warden’s books.※ As some lady said to him, apparently; it was a change to see a handsome warden. He is handsome; tall, slim, legal-looking. His baldness is his Achilles’ tendon (why not say he’s bald? – you shut your trap, H.L). [my father regularly used this abbreviation for Baudelaire’s hypocrite lecteur] I made a good, carefully-prepared speech proposing the B.M.’s health; Mat Rosen made a not-so-good, unprepared – or rather, not carefully enough prepared – speech proposing the health of the B.M.’s parents. Ellis Lincoln, who sits next to H.Y. in shool, and was the big “catch” among [?missing words] made a fluent speech from a few jottings on a menu card. Howard played, the piano. He has appeared on I.T.V. A likeable kid, nevertheless. Well up in his Jewish studies, plays soccer, runs at school. I’ve had enough. Perhaps E. will make me coffee and cake. She replies with a tee-hee-hee and a fold-de-lol.

※ “Box” -31/12/67

Joseph Witriol’s Journal Part 11: The writer’s ego

Sunday, 8th December 1957, 1.15 a.m. (sic)

Revelry next door – I went there to complain, but confronted by a conciliatory youngster had perforce to let my wrath be turned away. The “next door’s” are apparently University College Thespians, celebrating their performance of Thornton Wilder’s Skin of our Teeth. I suppose the question of neighbouring noise not yet acute as I have no “work” that has to be done in the evenings. If and when I do get such work, it looks as if a modus vivendi will be establishable. Writing in my living (front) room, not very much noise penetrates from their living (back) room. Liberty – the right to make the noise I want to make when I want to make it and to shroud myself in perfect quiet when I want to shroud myself in p.q. The price of liberty in this sense is I suppose a minimum gross income of £2000 p.a. for a single man, which will enable him to select a detached domicile in a quiet neighbourhood. Even then I doubt whether it’s attainable. It seems to be quiet now (1.25 a.m.) Fortunately, I have no N.L.J.C. [New Liberal Jewish Congregation] classes tomorrow morning; so, having prepared my laundry, completed this entry and polished my shoes, I shall be able to lie in to-morrow morning with a fairly clear conscience. Saw Private’s Progress with E. [Edith Katz] this evening. Disappointing – Private’s Progress, I mean. The fun was never riotous, the dialogue undistinguished (“You’re a shower/rotters” – Terry Thomas as the Company Officer). E. as happy-making as ever.

Thursday, 26th December 1957, 2.30 p.m.

Nothing attempted, nothing done – almost, anyway. Many plans in the air – learn, or perhaps get up Spanish, so as to be able to apply to Erna Low to take a party to Spain (Molly Grills [?] said E.L. was hard up for Spanish leaders last year) – start my magnum opus, Mumme Looshn, Aspects of Spoken Yiddish – apply for a youth leader’s job with a Jewish Club, the advt. said three nights a week at £250 a year – mug up Matthew Arnold and enter for I.T.V.’s 64,000 feature – all will remain in the air. Mum, Sam & Lily [ brother and sister-in-law] with me chez E’s Mum and brother Alf – about a fortnight ago. Afterwards E. and I went to Uncle Morry and Aunt Rosie (Aunt Rosie E’s Mum’s sister). Uncle Morry good solid English-born Cockney Jewish working class, served in first world war, infantry; Auntie Rosie cheerful piano-thumping extrovert. Married 35 years, he sends bouquet, takes her to show every anniversary. Went with E. to Benn Levy’s Rape of the Belt. Disappointing. Dialogue laboured, e.g.: “After all, there are men and men.” – “Which kind are you?”  And the thesis that the world would be a better place if run by women didn’t come off. The women’s treatment of criminals (in the Amazon’s “queendom”, sic, this too was presumably supposed to make us sit up) was not very original – surround them with love. Woman officer drilling the Amazons: “Pick up your dressing there; no, not in the literal sense, you fool.” Well, well.

With E. and Howard to Harringey Circus. Howard, aetat. 12, son of Leo and Clara Youngerwood. [in 1996, a senior CPS lawyer and pantomime villain of the Stephen Lawrence circus] The circus very sparsely attended (it was an “Erev Christmas” matinee) but left me impressed with the daring and skill involved.

Merton [Sandler] came round the other night. Fortunately I had just finished my bath and was in my dressing gown. He had no special news, was moving in his usual high class circles, meeting Barnie Janner’s [Barnett Janner, Labour MP] daughter, etc.

Monday, 6th January 1958, 11.20 p.m.

New Year’s resolution: the usual – daily reading of Bible. As usual, kept for 3 days. Will try to catch up, though, to-morrow and see if I really can’t get through the whole of the Book. But if I can’t do any book-reading on holiday, what chance shall I stand when school starts? With Mum and Lily to The Ten Commandments at the Plaza this afternoon. Cecil B. de Mille spectacle with no gaffes is all I feel inclined to say about it. Still, it may send me to the book again. Apparently there is a church which has a notice: “You’ve seen the film, now read the book.” On 28th December saw Bambi and Johnny Tremain with E. at the local flicks.  

Last Thursday went to West End to do – what? Oh yes – bought myself pair of silk pyjamas (£4-4-0) in Berkeley Street, booked the Plaza seats, dashed into Foyles to see if I could find material for an article, “Desiderata,” I have in mind, but the crowd, the gramophone from the adjacent records dept., the natter, the confined space, made me glad to get out. Met E. The idea was to have a cheap meal somewhere, but everywhere cheap was crowded, so stumbled into the Charing X hotel. Meal there cost 38/- the two of us, including 4/- tip. Coffee, but no wine. Solid bourgeois comfort, J.B. Priestley hard-headed North Country types; evidently some kind of Convention. Insurance managers, agents? Vacuum-cleaner salesmen? But they seemed used to dining and wining at this level, which is more than any teachers are ( unless a childless teacher couple on top salaries, perhaps, and then I shouldn’t think they could do it more than a few times a year even at the reduced rates granted to the Convention men.

My translation of Ouri Kessary’s (And) These are the Names of the Children of Israel (the J.C. rightly left out the “And” in my title) appeared in the J.C. of 27/12/57. A kind correspondent, unknown to me, kindly referred to it as being “brilliantly translated by Joseph Witriol” – no more than true. Wish I could get 30 such articles a year to translate. Not so wonderful, financially. I expect the fee for this article will only be eight guineas, of which I shall give four to O.K. Take off typing expenses (if I did 30 a year I don’t think I’d be able to type them myself as well) remittance – and correspondence-to-Israel expenses, tax – and what have you left? 25/- a week. Still, even to have one’s name in microscopic print as translator 30 times a year in the J.C. would be worth something, purely in terms of ego-stoking.

Richard [Stern] round the other night. Brought a classy box of chocolates for E. – toujours il galantuomo. He plays chess, apparently. Beat me! The ego can do with all the stroking it can get.